A public service announcement (PSA) released today informs Iowans called for jury service about the safety measures the Iowa Judicial Branch and counties are providing to ensure the health and safety of Iowans serving on juries.
Entitled “Serving Safely,” the PSA includes two videos narrated by retired Des Moines news anchor Kevin Cooney. A short, 60-second PSA will be used on social media to direct people to the Iowa Judicial Branch “Serving Safely” web page. The “Serving Safely” web page will have extensive juror information and a second, longer video that explains the safeguards in place from jury selection, through the trial, and deliberations in courthouses statewide.
“As stated in the PSA, ‘the right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers is the bedrock of Iowa’s judicial system and is essential to our democracy,’” Iowa Supreme Court Justice Matthew McDermott, co-chair of the Jumpstart Jury Trials Task Force, said. “The videos explain to potential jurors the important balance of ensuring the right to a fair trial and protecting the health and safety of all the participants in the trial.”
The Iowa Supreme Court postponed jury trials in March 2020 to protect public health and safety due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Jury trials resumed for a short time in the fall but were paused again after a high rate of COVID-19 positive tests in Iowa were reported in November. Jury trials are set to resume February 1, 2021.
“We’ve continued to monitor the situation closely as we move to resume jury trials throughout the state,” Justice McDermott said. “To our knowledge there were no infections connected with the trials that took place last fall and we believe that is a testament to the safeguards we have in place.”
The PSAs were funded by an Iowa CARES Act grant and produced by the Iowa Judicial Branch, The Iowa State Bar Association, and the Jumpstart Jury Trials Task Force.
“Our Iowa State Bar Association (ISBA) member attorneys care deeply about Iowans’ access to justice, so it is essential that jury trials restart in a careful and safe manner so litigants can have their day in court,” said ISBA President Jerry Schnurr, a member of the Jumpstart Jury Trials Task Force. “We applaud the tremendous efforts of Iowa counties and the Iowa Judicial Branch to help make courthouses safer places for the public and all of us involved in the judicial system during this pandemic.”